The State is spending €250,000 in a bid to restore Ireland’s only native toad, the natterjack, to its former glory.
The endangered natterjack is confirmed to a small area in Co Kerry and one site in Co Wexford.
The State is committed to spending €48,000 per annum to a small group of farmers and landowners who manage new breeding sites for the amphibian in Co Kerry.
A total of €96,000 has been paid out to date, with the State committed to spending a further €144,000 over the next three years of the five year project.
Now, the spend is set to increase with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht confirming it is seeking tenders from parties in respect of a monitoring project for the natterjack until 2018.
The natterjack is protected under the EU Habitats Directive that requires member states to carry out a series of strict protective measures to ensure that the species has a favourable conservation status.
Mark Emmerson of Queen’s University Belfast said the spend on the natterjack toad study “is money well spent”.
“There is a legal requirement on states in the EU to improve the status of natterjack toads,” said Prof Emmerson.
He added that if the money is not spent and the population of the natterjack declines, Ireland risks facing legal action and fines from the EU.
Prof Emmerson said that the chirruping of the natterjack can be heard from more than 1km away, while the mating calls of the male can be heard from great distances.
Adult natterjacks are 60mm to 70mm in length and are distinguished from the common toad by a yellow line down the middle of the back.
They can live up to 15 years, feed on insects. Prof Emmerson said: “It is a fantastic species.”
The population of natterjack toads is estimated at around 9,000 adults and it is the only toad species found in Ireland.
Prof Emmerson said that Kerry provides a great refuge for the toad.
A spokesman for the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht said: “Considerable efforts have been made in recent years to start restoring the toad to its historic range.
“This has involved the construction of approximately 100 new breeding sites for the species around Castlemaine Harbour and at Castlegregory in Co Kerry.
“The ponds are dug and managed by 48 local landowners under five-year agreements with the department. The cost to the department of this scheme in each of the last two years has been €48,000.
“It is hoped to continue this scheme to the end of the current five-year agreements, subject to exchequer funds being made available.”
The spokesman added that a tender for a monitoring project of the natterjack has just been advertised and this contract will run until 2018.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved